Transgenerational Effects of Holocaust Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1488 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 15  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Drama - World

Transgenerational Effects of Holocaust

The Holocaust is a painful reminder that humanity can turn upon itself and inflict incomprehensible damage. It undoubtedly altered the course of millions of lives, many of which are still attempting to heal, despite the decades that separate the event from the present. Naturally, survivors of the Holocaust acutely feel the aftermath of this horrific persecution; most describe it as an indelible experience. What is not commonly known, however, is the ripple effect currently underway that impacts the second and also the third generation of individuals whose relatives fell victim to the Holocaust. One researcher perceptively stated it as follows: 'the Holocaust continues to contaminate everyone who was exposed to it in one way or another' (Kellermann, 197). In an attempt to understand the complexity of this phenomenon, it seems prudent to separately examine each generation and the ways in which the Holocaust has affected it and how this transgenerational transmission occurs.

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The survivors of the Holocaust are generally divided into two subgroups: children and adults. This is due to the fact that each subpopulation, while sharing some common reactions, exhibits distinct manifestations of the trauma. One study indicates 'the younger the survivor, the more traumatic the circumstances and the more damaging the impact of his or her war experiences' (Kellermann, 207). Holocaust survivors who were children when the war ended, meaning below the age of 16 years, tend to grieve the loss of their childhood innocence. Obviously, normal childhood experiences were denied them and 'as a result, there seems constantly to be an alter ego 'child' within them that searches for (infantile) need satisfaction' (Kellermann, 207). Many child survivors suffer from learned helplessness, which stems from their prior inability to control their surroundings. In addition, it is common for such individuals to feel an acute sense of 'abandonment and isolation' (Kellermann, 207).

Term Paper on Transgenerational Effects of Holocaust Assignment

Families were commonly separated during the Holocaust, with many relatives never reuniting. This disintegration has created a perpetual mourning, complicated by new separation anxieties. For example, some child Holocaust survivors feel great discomfort when individuals in their current relationships part from them. During the war, many children were obliged to assume false identities in order to avoid persecution. Consequently, they oftentimes have identity complexes. Memory suppression is a common reaction to traumatic experiences. Therefore, it is not unusual to see regressive amnesia in children Holocaust survivors. 'Finally, as a result of overwhelming pain, powerlessness, and isolation, primitive defenses were frequently developed by child survivors in order to survive emotionally' (Kellermann, 209). This is evident in the pervasive emotional numbness from which such individuals suffer. It also accounts for the tendency to maintain superficial relationships. This is a protective measure, as they do not want to subject themselves to emotional entanglement, which in the past exposed them to painful separations.

As previously mentioned, adult survivors of the Holocaust exhibit different reactions to their wartime tragedies than their younger counterparts. Some use black humor to ease an otherwise unbearable situation (Klein). Immediately following liberation, 'an extreme sense of insecurity resulted in the need to search for someone, somewhere, who might by a miracle still be alive' (Eitinger, 1429). For many, this uncertainty persists today. As one researcher indicates, adult Holocaust survivors regard highly a sense of normalcy (Bender). This means that despite internal suffering, they attempt to externally appear well-adjusted and functional.

In addition, such individuals tend to use external markers to determine their identities, values, and successes. In fact, one researcher found that social status was extremely important to first-generation survivors (Bender). After extended periods of abnormal and inhumane living conditions, adult Holocaust survivors submerged confused about their values and as such, used society as a reference point, even if they would otherwise have conflicted with their pre-war ideas and beliefs. Sleep disturbances are frequent as is depression and irrational anxieties. Oftentimes flashbacks occur, especially during stressful situations.

While in some respects the responses to the Holocaust differ between child and adult survivors, and clearly there are individual variations as well, it is nonetheless evident these groups share some residual effects. Both sets contain individuals who experience selective amnesia, nightmares, 'survivor guilt' (Kellermann, 202), anger management issues, isolation, and distrust. There are some triggers, such as 'crowded trains, barking dogs, discarded food, and barbed wire' (Kellermann, 202) that induce panic attacks. Even seemingly positive occasions, like birthdays, weddings, and holidays can provoke feelings of grief as they remind survivors of the absence of loved ones who disappeared or… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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"Transgenerational Effects of Holocaust."  Essaytown.com.  April 26, 2005.  Accessed May 29, 2020.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/transgenerational-effects-holocaust/249489.